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Paige, a bright third grade student on the autism spectrum, sat at home for nearly two months waiting for a school placement that would meet her needs. 

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News & Media


03.11.2014 | We’re excited to announce the release of Advocates for Children’s first organizational Policy Agenda! Based on our on-the-ground experience helping thousands of families each year navigate the New York City public school system, we identify systemic problems and advocate for policy change to improve educational programs, opportunities, and outcomes for all students.

Our Policy Agenda includes specific proposals regarding:

  • The school-to-prison pipeline and positive approaches to discipline; 
  • Students with disabilities; 
  • English Language Learners and language access; 
  • School stability for students in temporary housing or foster care; 
  • Access to high-quality early childhood education programs; 
  • Multiple pathways to high school graduation; and 
  • Protection from discrimination for students in traditional public schools and charter schools.

Learn more about our policy priorities or download a copy of the complete Agenda.

02.11.2014 | Today AFC will be testifying before the New York City Council Committee on Education and Committee on Women’s Issues in support of New York City’s plan to create a new funding stream to pay for a rapid expansion of Universal Pre-K. If we are serious about improving our schools, we must give every four-year-old child the opportunity to attend a high-quality, full-day prekindergarten program. And we must do it now. After all, children have only one chance to go to preschool. In implementing this plan, we look forward to working with the City Council and administration to make sure that this program serves all preschoolers, including preschoolers with developmental delays or disabilities, English Language Learners, and preschoolers living in temporary housing or foster care, so that the children who need this program most can benefit from it. View testimony [PDF]

01.28.2014 | Today Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York, submitted testimony for the New York State Education Budget Hearing. In her testimony, Kim Sweet applauds the Governor’s call to make pre-kindergarten truly universal, but points out that the funding in the budget proposal is insufficient to reach this goal. As a result, she calls on the Legislature to support Mayor de Blasio’s plan to expand pre-kindergarten rapidly in New York City. “Children have only one opportunity to go to preschool,” she states. “With the harder Common Core standards and higher expectations for children at every grade level, we cannot afford to wait any longer.” She also makes recommendations regarding the Governor’s preschool special education reform, special education waiver, after-school, and anti-discrimination proposals. View the full testimony [PDF]

01.27.2014 | AFC submitted comments to the New York State Education Department regarding proposed amendments to the State's Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Flexibility Waiver. AFC commented on amendments addressing testing for students with disabilities [PDF] and English Language Learners [PDF].

12.12.2013 | A new report, Rethinking Pathways to High School Graduation in New York State: Forging New Ways for Students to Show Their Achievement of Standards [PDF], was released today by The Coalition for Multiple Pathways to a Diploma, prepared by Advocates for Children of New York. The report examines the difficulties that high stakes standardized exit exams pose for many students and addresses the need for more flexible exam requirements and assessment-based pathways to a diploma.

The report outlines several recommendations for the State to improve access to a high school diploma while maintaining high standards that ensure college or career readiness. Our recommendations, described in detail in the report, are as follows:

  • Reduce the Number of Exit Exams Required to Graduate with a Regents Diploma from 5 to 3. 
  • Develop a Pathway to Graduation That Allows All Students to Demonstrate Their Knowledge and Skills through State-Developed and/or Approved Performance-Based Assessments. 
  • Build More Flexibility and Support into the Current System to Make it More Accessible to Students.
  • Ensure Transparency in Communications and Monitoring of all Aspects of the Multiple Pathways System. 

“We strongly support high standards of student achievement. However, we believe that the State’s focus on high stakes standardized exit exams creates unnecessary barriers to graduation for many students. As demonstrated nationwide, states requiring exit exams have lower 4-year graduation rates than those that do not,” states Abja Midha, Project Director for Advocates for Children of New York.

Statewide, about 48,000 students in each entering 9th grade class are at risk of not graduating. In NYS, over 25% of high school students fail to graduate within four years. For students of color, English language learners (ELLs), students with disabilities, and students who are economically disadvantaged, this percentage is even higher.

The report’s recommendations do not seek to dilute standards or remove rigor from the high school experience. Introducing additional flexibility to the high school assessment structure simply recognizes that students may better demonstrate their knowledge outside of a standardized exam setting.

Read entire report [PDF]

12.09.2013 | While all students, with and without special education needs, may apply to any NYC public school, there are some things students with special needs and their families should be aware of regarding the processes of applying to middle schools in choice districts and high schools around the city. This new fact sheet offers pointers to help families through the process. View fact sheet [PDF

12.04.2013 | Children born in 2009 are eligible to enter kindergarten in September 2014, and there are steps that families should take starting now to prepare for this important milestone. We hope these resources will help families navigate the transition to kindergarten! 

Kindergarten Admissions Process 

All families with children born in 2009 are encouraged to participate in the DOE’s kindergarten admissions process. For the first time, this year, families can apply to up to 20 schools using one application form. They can complete this application form online, over the phone, or in person at a borough enrollment office between January 13th and February 14th. Families should no longer go to individual schools to apply to kindergarten. For more information, please review and share AFC’s Kindergarten Admissions Guide [PDF].

Transition to Kindergarten for Students with Disabilities

In addition to applying to kindergarten, families with children with IEPs born in 2009 will be participating in a second process—development of kindergarten IEPs. For comprehensive information about the transition to kindergarten for students with disabilities, please review and share AFC’s Turning 5 Guide, available in both English [PDF] and Spanish [PDF]. Please make sure you are using the December 2013 version of these guides. If you viewed last year’s guides, you may need to clear your browser history to download the current versions.

From now through December 19th, the DOE is holding Kindergarten Orientation Meetings for families of students with disabilities born in 2009. We encourage families to attend! The schedule is available on the DOE's website

We also encourage you to review and share the DOE’s kindergarten materials: Kindergarten Admissions for All Students and Transition to Kindergarten for Students with Disabilities. Both websites have very helpful information for families of children born in 2009.

If you have questions about the transition to kindergarten, call our Education Helpline between 10 am and 4 pm, Monday through Thursday: (866) 427-6033.

11.25.2013 | Today AFC testified before the New York City Council Committee on Education, arguing that high-stakes standardized exit exams create unnecessary barriers to graduation. Without a high school diploma, students are denied access to college and careers. Our testimony recommends that the State (1) reduce the number of Regents exams required to graduate from 5 to 3; and (2) develop a pathway to graduation that allows all students to demonstrate their knowledge and skills through performance-based assessments in lieu of the Regents exams. View testimony [PDF]

10.31.2013 | The implementation of a new system for evaluating the 75,000 teachers who work in New York City’s public schools is a massive undertaking – one that will change how principals use their time, how teachers direct their efforts in the classroom, and, ultimately, how students experience school. As the intended beneficiaries of this major reform effort, students and their families have an enormous stake in its success. Today AFC released a policy paper, Essential Voices, Part II: Engaging Students and Parents in the Implementation of a New Teacher Evaluation System, which calls on the DOE to include students and parents when putting the new evaluation system into practice by establishing a stakeholder advisory group to provide feedback on the policy implementation process. The paper also provides examples of structures established for this purpose in other cities and states. Read the paper [PDF